SPEAK UP FOR FREE SPEECH

Protect your users' freedom of expression.

To gain the respect of users as a champion for their free speech, you need to do more than just allow users to express themselves on your platform or service—you need to affirmatively protect them from third-party attempts to force you to remove their content or reveal their identities. Earning a reputation as a defender of your users’ rights can be a valuable way to build trust with your current users and attract new ones.

INVOLVE USERS WHEN YOU RECEIVE A DEMAND TO REMOVE THEIR CONTENT
The simplest way to help your users and boost their loyalty is to notify them promptly and give them a chance to respond to any request or demand to remove their content. Include a copy of the demand and inform the user about her possible responses and your procedure for acting on such notices. Encourage content owners and users to communicate directly and resolve their disputes amicably.
Case Study

Rather than simply providing trademark holders with instructions on how to send formal takedown requests for user-generated content on their sites, Etsy, YouTube, and Vimeo each encourage rights holders and their representatives to contact alleged infringers and attempt to informally resolve a dispute before pursuing legal action.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation praised the companies for discouraging unnecessary legal disputes and “giv[ing] users a chance to understand and respond to threats against their own speech if necessary.”

ONLY REMOVE CONTENT THAT YOU ARE REQUIRED TO REMOVE
Grow your reputation as a defender of user rights by pushing back against illegitimate demands to take down content. If a demand seems overbroad or if you believe that your users have the legal right to say or post what they have done, evaluate your options for pushing back against the demand. And if you do comply with a demand, don’t overreact by removing content beyond its scope.
Case Study

Google was praised for “defending freedom” when it refused to comply with an order to remove the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video from its services.

Google was praised for “defending freedom” when it refused to comply with an order to remove the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video from its services. Google ultimately won a decision allowing it to keep the video online, leading “[e]veryone from technology companies to Hollywood to free speech advocates [to] breathe a sigh of relief.”

TAKE YOUR USERS’ RIGHTS INTO PROPER ACCOUNT
Many takedown requests target commentary, criticism, and reporting related to a copyrighted work rather than the use of the copyrighted work itself. Some, but not all, of these uses may fall under the doctrine of fair use, which is a safety valve built into copyright law to help protect freedom of expression. You can win praise and the admiration of your users by finding ways to vindicate your users’ rights.
Case Study

Google received widespread praise for announcing it would bankroll some users in their legal fights against illegitimate copyright takedown notices of their YouTube videos.

Google received widespread praise for announcing it would bankroll some users in their legal fights against illegitimate copyright takedown notices of their YouTube videos. Google launched the groundbreaking program in late 2015, stating it would indemnify certain users it had identified as strong examples of fair use for up to $1 million in legal costs. Google was immediately praised by a wide variety of groups, including users, civil rights groups, and the news media, who heralded the move as “a game-changer” and called on other tech companies to follow Google’s lead.

Case Study

WordPress won support when it sued on behalf of a student investigative journalist targeted by an illegitimate censorship demand under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

WordPress won support when it sued on behalf of a student investigative journalist targeted by an illegitimate censorship demand under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). After the student published an investigative article criticizing the advocacy group known as Straight Pride UK, the group responded by demanding that the post be taken down. WordPress filed suit against the group and won damages for the student for misrepresentation of copyright infringement. Press lauded the move of support as a “welcome” one that would encourage others “to fight back against malicious takedown notices.”

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